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FAMOUS DIAMONDS

The Grünes Gewölbe, or Green Vault, the home Dresden’s diamond jewelry collection, much of which was stolen during the early morning hours of October 25, 2019.

MULTI-MILLION DOLLAR JEWELRY HEIST AT DRESDEN MUSEUM, BUT ITS MOST FAMOUS ARTEFACT IS SPARED

 

Thieves got away with a collection of jewelry at the museum in the historic German city of Dresden in what local police are describing as the largest such theft since World War II. But the museum’s most famous showpiece, the 41-carat Dresden Green Diamond was not taken, because it currently is on loan at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

The dramatic heist occurred on at about 5 AM on Monday, October 25, 2019, after a fire broke out at an electrical distribution point nearby the museum in Dresden old royal palace, deactivating the alarm system and plunging the area into darkness.

Nonetheless, a surveillance camera still managed to film two men breaking into the Grünes Gewölbe (Green Vault) at the museum and getting away with three sets of 18th-century jewelry.

Police were alerted within minutes, but by the time they arrived the robbers had vanished. A burning car was later discovered in the city, and law enforcement officials suspect that it may have been the getaway vehicle, police said.

 

LOSSES OF UP TO ONE BILLION EURO

Created in 1723 by Augustus the Strong, the Elector of Saxony, the Grünes Gewölbe is one of 12 museums which make up the famous Dresden state art collections.

According to German media, the losses from the burglary, which included more than 100 items of jewelry and other artifacts,  could run as high as one billion euro, although Marion Ackermann, the director Dresden’s state art collections said it was impossible to estimate the real value of the items taken.

“We cannot give a value because it is impossible to sell,” she told reporters. “The material value doesn’t reflect the historic meaning.”

Among the items known to have been stolen are a sword and scabbard, measuring 96 centimeters long and weighing 553 grams. Together, they contain almost 800 diamonds and form part of a set, which also includes knee and shoe buckles, and an epaulette.

Another stolen item is a diamond hat clasp, comprising 15 large diamonds and more than 100 smaller stones. Made in the 1780s for Frederick Augustus III, its centerpiece is 16-carat stone.

Experts are skeptical whether the jewelry will be found intact. The most likely scenario, they say, is that the thieves will try sell the many hundreds of high-value stones individually.

The 41-carat Dresden Green, which was spared during the robbery on October 25, because it is on show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

The sword and scabbard, set with almost 800 diamonds, which was one of the items taken during the jewelry heist. Photo courtesy of Jürgen Karpinski/Grünes Gewölbe, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden.

THE TRAVELING DRESDEN GREEN

While the loss of Dresden’s great jewelry collection was devastating, the shock would be been multiplied has the Dresden Green been among the stones stolen. 

Believed to have been discovered at the Kollur Mine in India in 1741, records show that the fancy green colored diamonds was acquired in 1741 by Augustus III, the son of Augustus the Strong, who in addition to being Elector of Saxony was also King of Poland and the Grand Duke of Lithuania.  It was set as part of a badge fashioned for the Order of the Golden Fleece.

Following the Seven Year War (1756-1763), during wich Saxony was defeated by Prussia, the Golden Fleece was dismantled with the part containing the Dresden Green was recreated into a hat ornament. 

It was made available for public viewing until the start of World War II,  during which the entire collection of the Grünes Gewölbe was stored in Konigstein Fortress. The collection seized by the Soviets at the end of war the and transported to Moscow. 

The vaults’ contents were returned by the Soviets to Communist East Germany in 1958, and a year later the Dresden Green was put on back display.

In 2000 and 2001, it was shown in the in the Harry Winston Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution, but then sent back to Dresden. Fortunately, on October 25, it was on the road again.